Chez Cora president says he was kidnapped after trying to help stranger

“I live in a dead end, it is not uncommon for people to show up lost”, testifies Nicholas Tsouflidis at the trial in Laval of Paul Zaidan.

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The night of March 8, 2017 was unlike any other in Nicholas Tsouflidis until someone knocked on his back door asking for help.

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The president of the restaurant chain Chez Cora told a jury at the Laval courthouse on Tuesday that he had decided to help the stranger before he had the surprise of his life.

Tsouflidis was the first witness called to testify in the trial of Paul Zaidan, 52, who is accused of kidnapping Tsouflidis, of detaining him against his will for hours and of attempting to extort 11 million dollars. dollars to Tsouflidis’ mother, Cora Tsouflidis, the founder of the channel. restaurant.

The trial, chaired by Superior Court judge François Dadour, began with an official reading of the charges. Zaidan pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

“I live in a dead end (in Mirabel) and it is not uncommon for people to show up lost, looking for another house in the street,” Tsouflidis told the jury.

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He said he was only wearing a shirt and underpants at the time and asked the stranger to wait while he changed.

Tsouflidis said he put on a pair of jeans and grabbed his cell phone before going out to help the man. Once outside, he said, the man claimed he had lost his keys on the ground and asked for help finding them. But as he approached the stranger, he pulled out a handgun.

“He said, ‘Get down on the ground,’” Tsouflidis recalls. “He was holding a 9mm pistol – something you see in the movies.”

Tsouflidis said that as he obeyed the man’s orders and lay on his stomach, he noticed two other men exiting the stranger’s vehicle.

One of the men tied his hands, Tsouflidis said, and he was placed in the trunk of the vehicle.

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Locked in the trunk, he managed to call 911 and gave the operator his address and a description of the vehicle. But one of his captors heard him speak, opened the truck and asked, “Who are you talking to?”

Tsouflidis said the kidnapper appeared not to realize he had a cell phone in his pants and closed the trunk once more. When a 911 operator called back, Tsouflidis was able to answer.

A 911 recording was played for the jury. The call sounded muffled and the operator said she was having trouble hearing it.

The witness said he was taken to a house where he could hear the sound of a garage door opening. He told the jury that he was ordered to descend stairs to what was an unfinished basement. Someone placed what appeared to be a pair of toy handcuffs on her and tied her legs with chains, he said.

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At one point, someone searched him and found his cell phone.

“You had a cell phone with you,” Tsouflidis said, citing the man’s reaction. “I told them, ‘You are not the brightest. I called 911. ‘ They started to panic.

“When they realized I had called 911, they were less aggressive. They weren’t nicer, but they were less aggressive.

At one point in his testimony, Tsouflidis said he believed up to five different men were involved in his kidnapping. He also said that when he realized the men wanted to extort a ransom from his money, he tried to convince them that they were wasting their time because the police knew he had been kidnapped.

Tsouflidis was found the next afternoon in a ditch by a passer-by.

Towards the end of her testimony, prosecutor Sarah Beaudry Leclerc asked Tsouflidis if he knew Zaidan before his kidnapping. The witness testified that Zaidan owned a Chez Cora franchise in Nuns’ Island for only “five or six months” before she ran into trouble.

“Franchising a restaurant, to use an analogy, is like having a license to drive a car,” he said. “When you have a license you have rules to follow – the rules of the road – and the way you drive can cause you to lose your license. A franchise works the same way.

“Unfortunately, we have withdrawn the banner, the right to use the name Chez Cora because, unfortunately, the restaurant was at fault.”

Tsouflidis will be cross-examined by the defense on Wednesday.

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